May 23, 2019
Well, we are coming up to Memorial Day weekend and this is the traditional time to plant your vegetables and annual flowers. With the up and down weather, I hope you waited to put your plants in your gardens. I have talked to a few people who have had the leaves of their tomato plants turn white in color. This is usually caused by windburn or sunburn. Plants that have been either grown in the house or grown in a greenhouse and not allowed to be gradually exposed to the elements can develop sunburn or windburn. One of the questions you should be asking before you buy your plants is “ Have these plants been properly hardened off? “ If you can’t get a definite answer, you should assume that the plants have not been hardened off and that you need to gradually expose them to the elements. What you need to do is to put the plants outside in the shade or under a tree. If the day is going to be hot and / or windy, you may want to bring them in the house, place them in the garage or place them some place out of the elements. After being exposed to the elements in a protected location, you should be able to put the plants out into the garden or into containers.
Once you get the plants into the ground, there are creatures waiting to ruin your garden. There is an insect called a cutworm that lives in the soil. Once you plant you plants, they will eat through the stems often in the first night after you put the plants in the ground. There are various chemical controls that you can apply to the soil, but you will often find that lightly wrapping the stem of the plant with foil for a week or so will allow the plant to grow enough that the cutworms will not longer be able to chew through the stem. At that point you can remove the foil.
Once the plants are in the ground or in your containers, make sure that you keep the soil moist but not soaking wet. It does take some time for the roots of the plant to develop. Along with taking water out of the soil, your plant roots also need to take up oxygen from the soil. If you keep the soil soaking wet, the oxygen is forced out of the soil and the roots can be damaged or killed from the lack of oxygen available to the roots.
Your plants will benefit from an application of fertilizer at planting time. You can mix granular fertilizers directly into the soil or you can sprinkle the granular fertilizer onto the surface of the soil after planting. If you are using a fertilizer that you mix with water, it can be applied after the plants are in the ground or after the containers are planted.
How is your lawn doing? With all of the rain, the grass is growing really fast. Eventually the water will begin to disappear and lawns that have not been fertilized yet will begin to fade away. If you have not fertilized your lawn yet this spring, you should plan on doing it soon.
If the growth on your lawn has gotten ahead of you, please remember that you gradually need to cut back the length of the blades of grass. The rule of thumb is to remove no more than 1/3 of the length of grass at each mowing. You may find that you need to do multiple mowings in a week or two to get the grass back to a manageable height. If you cut all of the grass back at one time, you will damage the grass.
For all of you who know that I am retiring and closing Harbor Garden Center and have asked if I will continue to write this column, the answer is yes, I will still be writing the column.
Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.